The Seventh Day of Ascending Air, RY 767
Danaa'd's Breath Bathhouse, Pahua Basin, Blessed Isle
Friendos! Check out what I wrote. It's a poem… about poems.
Let's have a look at this poem. Here it is, going down. You can tell it's a poem because it's swimming in a little pool of white space. That shows it's a poem. All the calligraphy on all sides has drawn back. The words are making room, they're saying, Rumble, rumble, stand back now, this is going to be good.
[Many, many lines of particularly atrocious metafictional free verse follow. Those in the Scarlet Sky Conspiracy will see the following:]
I'm the goddamned Carmela Contarini! I'm the hottest dragon in the southern isles, and people tell me I'm pretty, too. Being neither an Immaculate believer nor a Realmster, I am committing neither heresy nor treason for associating with you. which makes me a paragon of integrity and trustworthiness the likes of which have ne'er been seen by mortal eyes.
So let's talk about what I can do for you.
My great-grandfather is the Patriarch of Contarini, a merchant house of the Threshold and the proud home of many dragon-bloods. Well. I say 'many' but by your standards we're closer to House V'Neef than a House Mnemon. We are not Realmsters but we do a fair bit of trade with them (possibly we, being of superior draconic stock, are more palatable to deal with than the Guild, so we get nice deals). As a mercantile neutral party, this puts me in a good position to procure or smuggle in things that are needed for our nefarious plans, from cinnamon to arsenic. No slaves, though. The paperwork is killer.
Speaking of, I've had a very lucrative mercenary career so far, and several profitable ventures that other people take care of but I get to collect on. I have the dosh of a Dynast and none of the oversight. If you need it and it costs less than an actual estate or prefecture of your own, I can get it for you. That's especially relevant for those of you who might get audited.
My father is an exiled member of House Iselsi (keep that under your hat, would you?), so I know a fair bit about how the Realm works. Not many of his old contacts are willing to openly treat with me because, well, that's just a bad idea. But they're a bunch of sneaky fucks, and they get shit done.
I recieve about a dozen suitors every day. The fact that House Contarini makes a merry sport of poaching lost eggs and cast-off Realmsters for its own (and thus has a bloodline that would be considered "pretty good" in these parts) is something of an open secret. Thus, a number of of patrician families feel I could bring their star into the ascendant. Also, unlike a lot of Dragons around here, I don't turn up my nose at them. It's part of my charm! Their constant bidding for my favor could be useful someday, maybe?
I have both punched a Solar in the face so hard his head spun and slept with one. In a shocking twist for a story that starts like that, it wasn't actually the same Solar!
I'm a hop, a skip, a jump and a good hearty boat ride away from Chanos if I really want to mix it up; I've made the acquaintance of some of the Dragons and gatekeepers that normally reside there, and there are rumblings that it's going to be a bastion of support for the Roseblack, but I don't know how true they are. Out here is WAY nicer, though. Dad talks sometimes about 'plucking the dragon lines' where the really good stuff going on in a place is found elsewhere. That sounds like a GREAT excuse to hang out on the beach instead of traipsing around in the cities.
So now let's talk about what you can do for me.
Some sweet imperial monopolies for Contarini wouldn't hurt. I'm not actually asking to become an Imperial House because I'm 99% certain there are some logistical hurdles to the usual means of establishing us as one, which would be Aisa filling my womb with as many babies as it can hold. But even something like exclusive rights to the wine trade along the Yellow River would be a nice little boon to show good will.
The new Empress has to knock off the persecution of Iselsi. Welcome back some of the exiles. Not right away, that would be suicide. But it needs to happen, or else a bunch of your best talent is going to fuck off to the Threshold and not come back. In the short-term, that means our little conspiracy should help to shelter them where they can. You'll be repaid for that aid; they're good for it.
The new Empress is going to need new people, again, probably from the Threshold. New blood to refresh those stagnant bloodlines. I sympathize with Aisa's position, not wanting to see her homeland torn apart and set on fire. But from an outsider's perspective, seems like a lot of the grievances her people have against each other won't – and CAN'T – be settled through discussion and compromise, but will be settled with iron and blood. Scarley seems to have cultivated it. Woman thought she was going to live forever.
No one lives forever. So there's the last thing I want. Don't assume you're going to live forever. If we ever get a whiff of power, we need a plan so shit like this doesn't happen again.